For those who read this blog, you know my primary focus. I cover current music that stems (mostly) from the Country and Americana scenes as well as the occasional non-Country album or song. As fun as it is for me, it does become draining at times. It’s hard to find time to listen to music recreationally. I don’t want to stop covering current music though. Instead, I wanted to find a way to integrate the music of the past in some form here. I’ve done a few retro spotlights for Country albums, but it never feels like it’s enough. I went on an Alan Jackson kick last night, and listening to him made me want to listen to other music from my childhood.
The 90’s era of Country music is seen as a golden age for many people. For them, it’s the era of Country music that helped shape their childhoods. Me? The late 2000’s was more of my “90’s Country” era, and after my Alan Jackson kick, I found myself revisiting a lot of songs from that era. I also remembered a feature I used to help out with at Country Perspective called “The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music”. Admittedly, picking one chart at a time for a random year got to be draining after awhile (that’s on me though), but counting down an entire year that truly captures the music of that time period? That sounds great!
As much as I do love the independent scene as well as some current songs in the mainstream, that music isn’t what helped to shape who I am. It never will be. The world seems different to us when we’re children, and while many people were starting to turn away from Country music during this time period, I was just getting into it. I loved it, and while I know some of the songs I love from this year may be detested by certain people, I can’t help it. It’s what I like.
As such, I decided to just focus on a hodgepodge of music from 2007 by compiling a list of what I consider to be the best hit songs of that year. You may be wondering what defines a hit song, and it’s certainly up for debate. I chose to use Billboard’s year end list for 2007. I had sixty contenders there, so it’s certainly a big enough pool of nominees. Again, you likely won’t agree with every single pick of mine, and that’s the beauty of this era in Country music. There were several painful cuts that would likely be in my top five if I compiled this list today, so as such, let’s roll out the many honorable mentions.
Carrie Underwood – “So Small”
Don’t worry, it won’t be the only time Carrie Underwood appears on this list.
Keith Urban – “I Told You So”
Lyrically, the song reeks of smug arrogance. I won’t deny that. I don’t care. It’s so tight on an instrumental level that I like this regardless.
Keith Urban – “Stupid Boy”
Ok fine, Keith Urban got snubbed this year. Still, “Stupid Boy” is one of his most underrated singles to date. He’s not expecting mercy from you, the listener. He knows he screwed up, and him berating himself for the duration of the song is oddly refreshing considering that sometimes the narrator will think they were owed something from the other person. Come to think of it, Love, Pain, and the Whole Crazy Thing was a great album.
Brad Paisley – “Online”
Yeah, it’s corny, but considering I used to blog under a pseudonym, I can’t exactly say it’s stupid or untrue.
Tim McGraw – “If You’re Reading This”
I don’t think any comment will accurately or appropriately say why this is great, but it’s truly a moving song.
Joe Nichols – “I’ll Wait For You”
This was the final cut I made for the list, and when you see what came in at No. 10, you may not think highly of me. On any other year this likely would be in the top five, but hey, it’s still great. That’s what counts.
Onto the list proper!
10. Rascal Flatts – “My Wish” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 41)
Rascal Flatts have never really been the “cool” Country band to like. In some circles, they’re not even a Country band. If I can make a confession, I have enjoyed the bulk of their 2000’s material and never thought they were the plague on the genre that many made them out to be. I don’t mind Gary LeVox’s voice in the slightest, and as for this song, what can I say? It’s a Pop-Country ballad that has a great message to it. Ok, maybe it is cheesy. If I’m being honest though, I had to include this song here. It was the song my mother dedicated to me during my senior year of high school. It’s right there in my yearbook. There’s no way this song couldn’t have been here. It might not matter to you, but it matters to me.
9. Carrie Underwood – “Wasted” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 7)
One thing I really enjoy about Pop-Country hits of this year is that they were able to blend a Pop sensibility with actual Country instrumentation to make something that sounded great. Golly, it seems like this evolution thing is moving in the wrong direction. Of course, it’s easy to like this based solely on Underwood’s performance. She is a vocal powerhouse after all. However, it’s also a refreshing take on the aftermath of a relationship. Both parties ultimately move on because they know it’s over. It’s not easy, but they endure their respective hardships to finally realize that life moves on. I always like these types of songs, and Carrie Underwood made a treasure with “Wasted”.
8. Billy Currington – “Good Directions” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 2)
Can you believe Luke Bryan helped to write this? Again, I think this evolution thing is moving in the wrong direction. Oh whatever, the focus here is on Billy. Throughout the 2000’s, Billy Currington had a slew of great story songs that are among my favorite Country songs ever. Maybe we’ll get to those on another list someday, but “Good Directions” is just the type of song you don’t hear on the radio anymore. There’s a chorus, sure, but it’s an actual sequential story that forces the listener to listen from beginning to end. Billy Currington has always been one of the most charismatic performers in the genre, and his well-intended, affable corniness is surely welcome on a track like this.
7. Dierks Bentley – “Long Trip Alone” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 42)
Love songs are likely the most common things to sing in well … any genre. Even in 2007 we were at a point where you had to deliver something more either through the lyricism or the delivery to really stand out. While something from last year such as say, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s “If We Were Vampires” won us over with its captivating lyricism, something such as Dierks Bentley’s “Long Trip Alone” won us over in the latter category. Bentley has never been one of the strongest vocalist in the genre per se, but no one can deny that as an emotive interpreter, he’s rock solid. On one of his most underrated singles, he delivers a serious, grounded performance that is among his best to date. Even the “ohs” in the middle feel more cathartic than tacked on – as if he’s truly committed to going on this lifelong journey with his partner. Dierks Bentley has always been among the better performers in the genre, and this is an example of why.
6. Emerson Drive – “Moments” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 13)
Nowadays we can look to artists such as Lindi Ortega or Corb Lund if we want an example of the greatness Canada has given us. We were even offered a slice of Canadian greatness in 2007. Emerson Drive may be forgotten in the United States now, but they delivered an absolutely loaded, heartbreaking song with “Moments”. It’s not uncommon to feel worthless and weighed down by life, and at times we do wonder if anyone is really listening or cares. It doesn’t matter if you’re a homeless man, a middle-aged person stuck in a rut or a kid just wondering what you’re going to do with your life – you’ve already done some important things that mean something to someone. They might not be important to you, but they are to that person (or multiple people).
5. Kenny Chesney – “Don’t Blink” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 39)
Country music is prone to its tried and true themes – one of them being the concept of time and how to make it last forever. That’s what makes a song like “Don’t Blink” so hard to talk about. I mean, we’re getting something like this from an artist who was (and still is I guess) otherwise known as a beach bum? Yeah, we are. In fact, “Don’t Blink” is more of a leader in this clubhouse than a simple follower. This isn’t a preachy song from Chesney himself telling us to conquer our dreams or some bologna such as that. Instead there are actual characters – a reporter and an old man who’s actually got the experience under his belt to be an authority on this subject. He recounts actually events in his life and frames it in a way that’s relevant to all of us. It’s one of Chesney’s best songs.
4. Tim McGraw – “Last Dollar (Fly Away)” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 17)
I can already imagine the eye-rolls and groans emanating from anyone reading this list. Much like “My Wish”, I don’t have much of a good excuse for this, and yet at the same time I do. I was in 5th grade when this came out, and this song was one of maybe five modern Country songs my grandfather actually likes. He always picked me up from school during those days, so anytime this came on the radio, he’d crank it as loud as he could. We both had a blast singing it at the top of our lungs. One day I came out to find him cranking that song once again, only once it was over he hit the “repeat” button. I found out then that he bought the CD, so we could just play it whenever we wanted to. I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything. As it is, this song is just a rare type of playful and silly. It’s essentially critic proof, which is why I shared a real story rather than waste time telling you why I like this. I just do, ok?
3. Kellie Pickler – “I Wonder” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 55)
There are certain songs that feel almost too personal and real for an outsider to discuss, and this is one of them. I don’t think people expected much from Kellie Pickler when she released “Red High Heels”, but her sophomore single, “I Wonder” proved she had the songs to match her talent. I don’t even know what to say about this really. It’s just one of those songs where you push play and just hear (and even watch) the story taking place from afar. That awkward (imaginary) conversation between Kellie and her mother (Cynthia Morton) who wasn’t there for her in her childhood is too fragile to make a comment. Instead, let’s just agree that this is Country music at its finest, because it’s raw and real.
2. Jason Michael Carroll – “Alyssa Lies” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 44)
Speaking of songs that are very tricky to comment on, hello “Alyssa Lies”. It’s one of those songs where you’re not prepared to know what’s going on the first time you hear it. Even the first time he (or rather, his daughter) says the words “Alyssa lies”, we don’t yet know what exactly it is she’s lying about. Then the brutal details come in and it’s almost too real to really comprehend or know what to say. It excellently tackles a very real issue, and it makes me miss the days when Country music did that more often.
1. Jake Owen – “Startin’ With Me” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 35)
My top 3 songs for 2007 could have all been my No. 1 for the year, but alas, only one could actually take that top spot. In the end, I decided that while “I Wonder”, “Alyssa Lies” and “Startin’ With Me” were gut punching tunes, “Startin’ With Me” was the one I thought would relate to all of us. We’ve all been in that position where we did something foolish that we couldn’t take back. Does this song go a little over the top with the many, many examples? Sure, but that’s the point. Change often first begins with us and what we’re doing about it, and while the narrator here is expecting no sympathy, the important part is that he realizes where he went wrong. He can’t undo any wrong he committed, however he can at least take a fresh step forward knowing that he won’t make those mistakes again, if not for his family and friends, then at least for himself.
What do you think? What did I miss? If you’d like to see me cover another one of these charts (because I’ll be honest, I had a blast compiling this), let me know! I can see that the archives stretch a mighty long way back, so I’m willing to count down whatever year you want.